The classical guitar produces a beautiful tone with the rich resonance of nylon strings, and within the world of classical guitar music, there are certain renowned pieces that stand out for their exceptional beauty.
We've compiled a list that includes pieces ranging from high difficulty to those suitable for beginners. So if you find yourself thinking, "I like this piece" or "What a beautiful song," we encourage you to take on the challenge.
For those of you with limited time, you can navigate directly to the songs you want to explore using the "Table of Contents." Additionally, if you prefer to just listen to the music, we've created a YouTube playlist for your convenience.
Please feel free to enjoy it below.
- 1 Top 10 Most Beautiful Classical Guitar Pieces and Famous Songs
- 2 Afterword
Top 10 Most Beautiful Classical Guitar Pieces and Famous Songs
"Cavatina" is famous as the theme song of the 1978 American movie "The Deer Hunter."
Composed by the British musician Stanley Myers, it was performed by John Williams, known as the "King of Guitar."
The movie, which dealt with the Vietnam War, featured an incredibly beautiful melody and chord progression that, despite the subject matter, evoked a sense of beauty tinged with melancholy. It's a remarkable piece that fully showcases the charm of the guitar.
By the way, this song requires a lot of barre chords throughout, and despite its relaxed melody, there are few resting points, making it a rather challenging and physically demanding piece for the left hand. (The impression really changes when listening and playing it.)
Personally, it's one of my favorite guitar pieces, but I just don't feel like playing it anymore...
Recuerdos de la Alhambra
"Recuerdos de la Alhambra" is a composition by the Spanish composer Francisco Tarrega, often referred to as the "Father of the Guitar." Among classical guitarists, this piece is so famous that it needs no introduction.
Many people who enjoy classical guitar set playing this piece as their goal, and it's understandable given the beautiful tremolo technique that runs throughout the composition. Especially, the beauty of the key change in the middle section is among the finest moments in the world of guitar music.
It's considered the "most famous tremolo piece," and it's truly a magnificent composition.
"Lagrima," composed by Francisco Tarrega, is another famous classical guitar solo piece, often referred to as "Tears" due to the subtitle.
Compared to "Recuerdos de la Alhambra," it has a lower level of difficulty, making it suitable for guitar beginners. It has a leisurely tempo and features a very beautiful melody.
Starting with a bright major key, it transitions to a minor key in the middle section, creating a melancholic atmosphere, which adds to its charm.
It's approachable for beginners, but even as your skills improve, you'll find that there's plenty of room for expressive exploration in this piece.
Un dia despues
"Un Dia Despues" is a composition by the Cuban guitarist and composer Ray Guerra. It is famous for being composed specifically for the renowned Japanese guitarist Yasuji Ohagi.
This piece is often considered a response or companion to another classic guitar composition, "Un Dia de Noviembre," composed by Leo Brouwer.
Performing both "Un Dia Despues" and "Un Dia de Noviembre" together creates a delightful experience. The composition features a beautiful, leisurely melody in the first half, followed by a faster tempo in the middle, accompanied by skillful phrases, including arpeggios.
The structural contrast between the slow first half and the accelerating middle section is a common characteristic it shares with "Un Dia de Noviembre." Since this piece was dedicated to Yasuji Ohagi, his performances are quite prominent. However, there are variations where some musicians include their own preludes.
The sheet music is relatively straightforward. Playing it strictly according to the score can make it sound somewhat uninspiring, but overly varying the tempo can make it feel monotonous. To truly convey its beauty to the listener, the performer's expressive abilities are put to the test, making it a profoundly rich and beautiful piece of music.
"La Catedral" is the magnum opus of Agustin Barrios Mangore, considered the greatest classical guitarist and composer ever to emerge from Paraguay.
Barrios' compositions gained notoriety in the 1970s, thanks in large part to John Williams' performances.
This composition is said to have been inspired by Barrios' own religious experiences, much like his other famous work, "Un Sueno en la Floresta," which is also believed to have religious inspirations.
The piece is divided into three movements, each of which is notable in its own right. However, the third movement, featuring rapid arpeggios, is the most famous part of the composition.
Throughout the piece, you'll find fast-paced phrases that manage to convey a solemn and beautiful atmosphere, perfectly in line with its name, "The Cathedral."
Despite the continuous high-speed phrases, it doesn't come across as frantic, successfully capturing the grandeur and beauty one associates with cathedrals.
Surprisingly, when you try to play it, the fast arpeggios are not as difficult as they might sound. This suggests that Barrios had an exceptional understanding of the classical guitar. Nevertheless, it's still a quite challenging piece to master.
Un Sueno en la Floresta
"Un Sueno en la Floresta" is another composition by Barrios, similar to "La Catedral," and it is renowned as one of the most famous tremolo pieces, like "Recuerdos de la Alhambra." As a side note, the third piece of this tremolo trio by Barrios is his "El ultimo tremolo (Una limosna por el amor de dios)."
In contrast to "Recuerdos de la Alhambra," it begins in a major key and does not feature tremolo phrases at the outset. Nevertheless, it's already beautiful from the very beginning.
Once the tremolo phrases start, the piece continues to unfold with the same sense of beauty established at the beginning.
In the middle section, the mood changes to a minor key. Unexpected phrases, like moments without tremolo and diminished chords, add to the rich expressiveness of this famous composition.
The latter part of the piece, as a tremolo piece, demands more intricate fingerwork and features challenging aspects, including high-fret barres in the ending. However, it rewards the effort with remarkable beauty and remains an enjoyable and rewarding piece to master, even though it is quite challenging.
Barrios' compositions, in general, are characterized by their enchanting and dreamlike qualities, making them enjoyable both to listen to and play, despite their level of difficulty.
El Noi de la Mare
"El Noi de la Mare" is an old folk song from the Catalonia region of Spain, arranged for classical guitar by Miguel Llobet. The composer of the original folk song is unknown.
You might not recognize the name of the piece, but during the Christmas season, it can often be heard, making it a well-known piece.
It has a bright and gentle melody, which leaves a lasting impression. It's a friendly and beautiful piece of music.
Compared to the other pieces mentioned here, it's relatively easy to play, so it's recommended for beginners.
The fact that it combines beauty and ease of play demonstrates Llobet's mastery of the guitar.
As a side note, Llobet was a disciple of Tárrega, the composer of "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" and "Lágrima," and he also served as a mentor to the guitar maestro Andrés Segovia.
Llobet arranged several Catalan folk songs for solo classical guitar, and he is well-known in the classical guitar world for his piece "El testament d'Amèlia."
This piece, along with "El Noi de la Mare," often makes up a concert program. "El testament d'Amèlia" also has a melancholic atmosphere but is equally beautiful, so if you're interested, I recommend mastering both of them as a set.
Cello Suite No. 1 Prelude BWV1007
Cello Suite No. 1 Prelude, BWV1007, composed by the "Father of Music," Johann Sebastian Bach, was originally part of a suite designed for solo cello.
In particular, the Prelude of this first suite is famous and is a beautiful piece of music that is frequently used in TV commercials. So, why is it performed on the classical guitar?
Well, that's because Andres Segovia was actively arranging and performing Bach's works, originally composed for the violin, cello, and lute, to suit the classical guitar.
Among these arrangements, this piece is one of the most famous.
The sophisticated and beautiful melodic phrases are highly impressive, and it's a piece that, even today, doesn't sound like an 18th-century composition but still feels fresh.
Many guitarists continue to perform it.
In terms of difficulty, it's easier to play compared to other Bach compositions, making it highly recommended for intermediate players.
Sons de Carrilhoes
"Sons de Carrilhoes" (Choro) is a composition attributed to the Brazilian guitarist and composer Joao Pernambuco. It's worth noting that authorship is sometimes listed as unknown.
The word "Choro" itself refers to a style of popular music in Brazil and is believed to have originated from the Portuguese word "chorar," meaning "to cry."
This piece, rather than being a heavily classical composition, has a more pop-like quality with a bright and beautiful melody. It is well-known and frequently performed in the classical guitar community, often appearing in sheet music collections, indicating its popularity.
In terms of difficulty, it's not too challenging, making it highly recommended due to its musical beauty and ease of play.
Pavane pour une infante defunte
"Pavane pour une infante defunte" is a piano composition created by the famous French composer Joseph Maurice Ravel in 1899.
While it is considered one of Ravel's iconic pieces today, it might be surprising to learn that it received mixed reviews when it was first composed. Although well-received by the public, it wasn't highly regarded by Ravel's fellow musicians. In fact, Ravel himself made comments such as "lacking in boldness" and "fairly weak in form."
This piece has a contemporary ambiance that could easily fit as background music in a video game or similar context.
I couldn't find the exact history of how it became a piece played on the guitar, but there are arrangements by Pujol and Diens.
This suggests that it has been enjoyed and played in the guitar community for a long time.
I've written at length about beautiful and well-known classical guitar pieces in video tutorials for basic exercises.
While there are many more beautiful pieces, I've started with the more approachable ones.
Looking at this list, you'll notice that many of the compositions are by Tarrega and Barrios, showcasing their exceptional compositional skills.
I hope this article serves as a starting point for a broader appreciation of classical guitar music.
Thank you for reading until the end.